|Asia News Digest
Break News Blackout in Korea on Threat To Nuke Iran
The Aug. 5 EIR article, "Cheney's Guns of August," and feature on CONPLAN 8022, translated into Korean, have been prominently posted on the Internet website of "Peacemaking," a key group which organized the candlelight demos that brought President Roh back to power in April 2004, after his impeachment. The Korean language wire service Korea Press International (KPI) and Mahl Magazine plan to publish it soon.
Next to come will be the "Cheney's Spoon-Benders" Pushing Nuclear Armageddon" (EIR Online #34), which has been e-mailed everywhere in Korea. A similar barrage into Japan has not led to any visible crack in the black-out.
S. Korea Supports Iran's Peaceful Nuclear Technology
"South Korea Backs Iran's Peaceful Use of Nuclear Technology," is the title of an Iran News Agency wire Aug. 22 in Tehran, after South Korean Ambassador Baek Ki-Moon voiced Seoul's support for Iran's peaceful nuclear development, in a meeting with Hossein Hashemi, Head of the Iran-South Korea Parliamentary Friendship Group. Baek underlined the need for expansion of ties and said Seoul seeks expansion of all-out relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Relations have made remarkable progress in recent years, he said.
Mr. Hashemi voiced satisfaction with the political and economic cooperation between the two and said Iran's Fourth Five-Year Economic Development Plan (March 2005-2010) has provided ample opportunities for joint investment in various industrial sectors. He called for speedy formation of the Iran-South Korean Joint Economic Commission to expedite the pace of economic cooperation. He apparently also called for South Korea to invest in Iran's nuclear sector. South Korea obtains over 50% of its electricity from nuclear power.
Six-Power Talks on Korea To Reopen
Six-power Korea talks are scheduled to reopen Aug. 30, as diplomats reject the Bush-Cheney Administration's unilateral approach. South Korea's National Security Council Vice Chair Lee Jong-Seok travelled to Moscow, Beijing, and Tokyo to urge the U.S. "to change Mr. Cheney's unilateral demands, which so far have made a settlement impossible," a Seoul diplomat told EIR. North Korea must be allowed peaceful nuclear energy, Lee repeated in Moscow Aug. 23, and Russia has agreed to this. ROK Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon met Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington Aug. 23 to deliver the same message, Ban told a press conference at the Korean Embassy later. Japanese and Chinese negotiators are due in Washington Aug. 25. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, in Japan Aug. 24, said the talks will resume "as planned."
U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill said in Washington Aug. 23 that while the U.S. still opposes any nuclear program, this issue "is not a show-stopper," an admission that saner heads are demanding a change in the Cheney negotiating position. Hill told reporters that "the idea of North Korea having a civilian nuclear reactor has the support of both South Korea and Russia, provided North Korea permits international inspection of its facilities," and that this was anyway only a "theoretical, downstream" issue that would not break a deal.
In Moscow, Lee also repeated Hill's remarks, that the U.S. could agree to a peace treaty to replace the current dangerous Korean War armistice. This, Lee claimed, will give Pyongyang an "acceptable security guarantee" (thus far denied by Washington) when the talks resume. The lack of security guarantee has been Cheney's major deal-breaker demand to date.
"There has never been a more positive signal in 50 years than what the United States has offered the North," South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Lee Tae-sik told a forum in Seoul Aug. 24. "It has everything the North wants. The United States has promised normalization of relations in return for North Korea giving up all its nuclear programs. I think there will be some good result soon."
Musharraf: Scientist Gave Aid to NK Nuke Program
In an interview with Kyodo News in Islamabad on Aug. 24, President Pervez Musharraf "revealed" that Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Khan provided centrifuge machines and designs to North Korea for the illicit uranium program which Pyongyang and many U.S. specialists say does not exist. Musharraf's remarks are the first time anyone has given details of Khan's transfers on the record; a "senior military official" briefed journalists in February 2004. Musharraf however claimed Khan could not have been of much help to North Korean nuclear weapons programs because he was engaged only in uranium enrichment, not in other steps to make a bomb such as conversion of uranium into gas, and development of trigger mechanism and delivery systems.
This "caveat" is of course irrelevant, as the charge levelled by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney et al., is that North Korea, while bragging loudly about its eight plutonium bombs, concealed a "secret" uranium program. The U.S. negotiating position is that "since we can't search all of North Korea, they will have to come forward with the uranium programs and surrender them, as Libya did." As with Iraq, the demand is to surrender something which may well not exist.
China To Focus on Natural Gas and Nuclear Energy
China will focus on natural gas and nuclear energy to meet its growing demand for energy, stated Zhou Dadi, head of the Energy Research Institute, at a science conference Aug. 23 in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang. China is now facing energy shortages, surging prices, and deadly accidents in the coal mines. The country will have to diversify to avoid relying on coal as its major fuel, Zhou said. In 2004, China consumed 2 billion tons of coal, 67% of its energy supply, and imported 120 million tons of oil, for 35% of its fuel supply. China uses only about 41.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year.
According to Prof. Xu Daqing, a specialist in nuclear energy, "alternatives" like wind or solar energy will not be important in China. Since China is capable of nuclear power self-reliance, Xu said he expects China to produce 20% of its energy requirement from nuclear sources by 2035, compared to 0.02% now.
China's Income Gap Threatens Social Unrest
China's ever-widening income gap will become "critical" by 2010, and provoke social instability, unless the huge problem is resolved, according to experts at China's Ministry of Labour and Social Security. The experts found that the income gap in China has been expanding since 2003, despite some measures to increase income of the impoverished.
The experts, headed by Su Hainan, president of the ministry's Income Research Institute, wrote that: "Income disparity in China is in the yellow-light [next to worst level] area now. We are going to hit the red-light scenario after 2010 if there are no effective solutions in the next few years."
Incomes in cities are growing at 8%-9% annually, but in the countryside, only 4%-5%. While per-capita urban income will reach 10,000 yuan (US$1,234) this year, in the countryside, average annual income was just 2,936 yuan (US$355) last year.
Also, within the rural population, there are big income disparities. "Average" farmers earned 3.39 times as much as poor farmers in 2004. In 1992, the disparity was only 2.45 times as much. A gap also exists among the urban residents. "And the gap is growing," according to Xu Fengxian, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Laid-off workers are losing income, while private business owners are getting wealthier at "incredible rates."
Myanmar Receives UN Envoy
Former Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas, representing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, was well received in Yangon (Myanmar has refused entry to UN reps over the past year due, to their single focus on the treatment of human rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi). As reported by Agence France Presse Aug. 20, Alatas met with the top five leaders of the junta, announcing afterward that the issue of Aung San Suu Kyi did not come up! He also met with the senior organizer of the National Constitutional Convention, Judge Aung Toe, who announced that the Convention, on hold since March, will open again in December.
India Unveils Thorium Breeder Reactor Design
Indian nuclear scientists from the Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) unveiled their Thorium Breeder Reactor design during a week-long conference at Brussels on emerging nuclear systems the Press Trust of India reported Aug. 25. The 600 MW reactor is named the Advanced Thorium Breeder Reactor (ATBR).
According to the design paper, while annually consuming 880 kg "seed" plutonium used for energy generation, ATBR will convert 1,100 kg of fissionable thorium-232 into fissile uranium-233. The ATBR would need 2.2 tons of plutonium annually as "seed" for conversion.
The uniqueness claimed by the Indians in their design is that there is almost a perfect balance between fissile depletion and fissile production, thereby extending the core life to two years. In present-day reactors, the depletion takes place at a much faster rate.